Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party lost a major state in the elections held at a time of increasing numbers of deaths and infections due to the Corona virus.
The BJP heavily targeted West Bengal during the election campaign, but it was won by the state’s incumbent Prime Minister, Mamata Banerjee, who is a staunch critic of Modi.
He accused Modi of focusing on opinion polls on the elections rather than focusing his efforts on dealing with the outbreak of the epidemic.
Elections were also held in the states of Assam, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, in addition to Puducherry province.
The party took control of the northeastern state of Assam, but did not make significant gains elsewhere.
During the past 10 days in a row, the number of daily infections in the country has exceeded 300,000. It recorded more than 360,000 new infections and 3,417 deaths on Monday.
The number of daily deaths in India rose dramatically on Sunday, reaching 3,689 deaths. Hospitals are facing acute shortages of beds and oxygen, and many Indians are turning to desperate pleas on social media for help.
Campaign rallies and voting are blamed for the increase in cases.
Modi and some of his ministers gave dozens of speeches in West Bengal state, but they failed, as they were accused of focusing on the polls rather than the pandemic.
What happened in West Bengal?
With nearly all of the results counted, the Trinamall Congress party led by the state’s premier, Mamata Banerjee, was found winning more than 200 seats in the 294-seat assembly.
These results will make Banerjee the leader of West Bengal for the third time. She is also the only female prime minister in India.
Banerjee celebrated the victory, and said that West Bengal had “saved” India with that result, and that dealing with Covid-19 would be her top priority.
But her victory was incomplete as she lost her seat in Nandigram, and the seat was won by a former assistant. She said she would contest the result in court, but she may have to run again to remain prime minister.
West Bengal, a state of 90 million people, and the city of Kolkata, are of particular interest to election observers. It is one of the few states not ruled by Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Despite that defeat, the election saw the BJP win nearly 80 seats, becoming the main opposition party. In the 2016 election, he won only three seats there.
BBC Delhi correspondent Gita Pandey says that although legislative elections were held in five Indian states, the real battle was over West Bengal.
The BJP had done everything in its power to campaign, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi taking the lead.
To further enhance his appeal to the Bangladeshi voter, he resorted to growing his beard, after his supporters made comparisons with the state’s much-loved icon, the Nobel Prize-winning Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore.
“The presence of the BJP has increased dramatically in West Bengal,” Modi said in congratulating Banerjee in a tweet.
Opposition Congress Party leader Raul Gandhi congratulated Banerjee on “reasonably defeating the BJP” even though his party has lost a large number of seats in the state.
Social media was flooded with posts mentioning the success of “Didi,” the well-known nickname Banerjee, meaning older sister.
The vote in the state took place in eight stages over a month. The Electoral Commission is facing great criticism for its refusal to reduce the number of stages and to conduct the election campaign via the Internet.
Critics accused the BJP of controlling it.
In addition to the northeastern states, such as West Bengal and Assam, there was also voting in the states of Tamil Nadu, southern Kerala, and Puducherry province in southern India, and local council elections in some parts of Uttar Pradesh in the north and Telangana in the south.
The main regional opposition party in Tamil Nadu seized power. A left-wing coalition retained power in Kerala, while the BJP-led coalition won no seats.
Some analysts believe that the results show the impact of the Corona epidemic, and the weakening of the BJP rhetoric in states inhabited by a large number of Muslims.
What are the latest Covid numbers in India?
India has recorded more than 19 million cases of Coronavirus, and thus it ranks second after the United States. More than 218,000 people have died due to the epidemic, although the true number of deaths is believed to be much higher.
Experts noted that low screening rates and the number of people dying at home, especially in rural areas, were contributing factors to the unreported numbers.
Painful images surfaced in India of families desperate for hospital beds and life-saving supplies, over a period of more than 10 days, while mortuary and crematoriums remained overcrowded.